Saturday September 25, 2021

Pak-India deadlock on Ratle, Kishenganga projects persists

Islamabad

Almost over seven months have elapsed, yet the stalemate continues between two nuclear states India and Pakistan on how to advance and develop consensus in the light of Indus Waters Treaty 1960 on the mechanism for resolution of ‘faulty designs’ of 300 MW Kishenganga and 850 MW Ratle hydro power projects.

However, the ice is hoped to melt in the ongoing current month of July as World Bank is striving from pillar to post to help develop the consensus mechanism between the parties to the dispute, a senior official at Ministry of Water and Power told The News. The credibility of World Bank that brokered the Indus Waters Treaty in 1960 is at stake and keeping in view the incessant endeavours of the Bank to persuade India to have talks with Pakistan for consensus on mechanism to proceed on the resolution of the disputed projects, it is being hoped that the progress to this effect may be made sometime in the current month.

There are signals emanating from the other side of the border that India has accelerated the pace of construction work on the Kishenganga and 850 MW Ratle hydro power projects which is very alarming development, the official disclosed and argued: "Pakistan had moved World Bank about a year ago to constitute court of arbitration to bar India from constructing the said projects with faulty designs which are the blatant negation of the Indus Waters Treaty, so India is not supposed to continue the construction work on the said projects.”

The impasse had emerged in the wake stance taken by Pakistan and India as former wanted the resolution of the disputed projects, being constructed on Jehlum and Chenab rivers by India, at the level of Court of Arbitration, whereas latter desired the decision by Neutral Expert. This had compelled World Bank to announce ‘pause’ on December 12, 2016 till the agreement on procedure or mechanism between the parties to the dispute – Pakistan and India.

World Bank now wants both the countries to develop consensus either on mechanism of Neutral Expert or of Court of Arbitration mentioned in the Treaty for the resolution of the issues pertaining to the said projects. And in case of failure, both the countries need to develop agreement on the middle way to resolve the issues.

Both the countries were to hold the talks on April 11-12, 2017 at secretary level in Washington in the presence of the top official of the World Bank, but the meeting could not take place at the eleventh hour because of the India's evasive attitude and since then the World Bank is in the process of persuading India to come on the table for talks on how to proceed on the resolution of the disputed projects. 

Under the Indus Waters Treaty 1960, World Bank, the broker of the Treaty, is not allowed to pick up any procedure of the two enshrined in the Treaty on its own to resolve issue or dispute unless parties to the dispute agree on one mechanism of the two that include the constitution of Neutral Expert and Court of Arbitration.

The top mandarins of Ministry of Water and Power told The News that if850 MW Ratle Hydropower Project on Chenab river gets constructed under its existing objectionable design, then the water flow of Chenab river at Head Marala will be reduced by 40 percent which will be very detrimental to the irrigation in central Punjab of Pakistan. India has awarded the contract of the Rattle project to a private company that will run the project on BOT (build, operate and transfer) basis for 35 years and then it would hand over the project to India.

This dam will be three times larger than the Baglihar hydropower dam. India has already carved out the plan to generate 32,000MW of electricity on Pakistan’s rivers that will enable New Delhi to regulate the water flows that are destined to reach Pakistan.

The revenants officials disclosed that Pakistan has raised the three objections on Kishanganga project’s design saying that the pondage of the project is 7.5 million cubic meter which is excessive and it should be one million cubic meter. Pakistan also wants India to raise intake by up to 4 meters and also raise spillways up to 9 meters high. And on the issue of Ratle Hydropower plant, Islamabad raised 4 objections. Pakistan wants India to maintain free board at 1 meter whereas India wants to keep it at 2 meters. In addition India wants to keep the pondage of 24 million cubic meters but Pakistan wants the pondage of 8 million cubic meters. Pakistan also wants the intake of the project should be raised by up to 8.8 meters and it spillways should be raised by up to 20 meters.